Lee was enjoying happy hour with a group of Korean American writers in Seattle when the waiter asked them, “So, is this your first time in the United States?”
The group which had been conversing with the waiter in perfect English thought he was joking, perhaps ridiculing the stereotype that all Asians are foreigners.
But when the waiter continued the line of questioning, they knew that he wasn’t.
What should they do? Should they ignore him, laugh it off and continue their night of merriment? Perhaps they should correct the waiter, and educate him.
After at first taking the former path, they decided that education would be the better way to go.
One writer who arrived later in the group bluntly said to the waiter, “Man, that’s kind of racist. That’s kind of racist.”
Month’s later Lee decided he had to write about the incident as a sort of therapy for himself and education for others.
You can read his story in The Stranger.